Assignment #2: A Trip to Harris Teeter

As graduation nears, I continually find myself making a mental checklist of all the places in the Williamsburg area I have yet to explore.  Thus, when given the assignment to visit a place I had never been and may be somewhat uncomfortable, I had quite a few places I could think of.  I ultimately decided to visit the Harris Teeter on Quarterpath Road.  While going to a grocery store may not sound adventurous, I always noticed the Harris Teeter when heading down Route 199 to the airport.  However, I did not realize there was an entire shopping center there since trees along Route 199 blocked my view.  Though not far from campus, the shopping center that houses Harris Teeter is little known to many William and Mary students.  Quarterpath Crossing is not on a bus line making it inconvenient to many students.  If students need to go grocery shopping, they either go to the Food Lion on Richmond Road (it is within walking distance) or Martin’s or Target, located on the Red Line.

I decided to go to the Harris Teeter in Quarterpath Crossing because I knew there would be few, if any, students there.  That made me feel somewhat uncomfortable – a requirement for the project – because I was not sure how people would react when they saw someone my age (I wore a hat that day that had my sorority letters and “College of William and Mary” on it) shopping there.  In a sense, I felt I would be “invading their zone.”  In other words, college students realize Williamsburg residents may sometime be annoyed with having to deal with college students living in their town.  By going to the Harris Teeter, I felt I would be stepping into the “college student-free zone” near Kingsmill.  While it is obviously not an actual “college student-free zone,” few students venture out there which residents of the area may appreciate.  Moreover, going to a new grocery store always makes me feel a little uncomfortable because I do not know where everything is located.  Thus, people can tell that you are not familiar with the store and probably not from the area.  I wanted to see who uses the grocery store while also investigating why the shopping center is there.

My first thought was that Quarterpath Crossing, which looks relatively new, was built to accommodate all the people living in Kingsmill.  Upon searching old newspaper articles, I found the shopping center opened in 2009.  It houses various stores and businesses in addition to Harris Teeter.  Banks, a seafood restaurant, a Subway restaurant, doctors’ and dentists’ offices, and a salon are also located in the shopping center.

When I arrived at the shopping center, I was surprised at how few cars were parked in front of the grocery store.  It was about 12:30p.m. on a Sunday. While some people go to church on Sunday, and Saturday is more of a day to run errands, I was surprised at how few cars were in the parking lot and how few people were in the store. The shopping center where I usually go on Monticello Avenue is always busy on the weekends.  Moreover, Harris Teeter appeared to be the only store besides Subway open in the shopping center.

The first impression I had while walking into Harris Teeter was just how clean and newly built the store appeared.  The inside looked much more upscale than the Food Lion and even appeared to be decorated in a more upscale fashion than Martin’s in Monticello Marketplace (where I usually shop for groceries).  When I first arrived there seemed to be no more than twenty people doing their grocery shopping in the whole store.  Most of the shoppers were couples, appearing to range in age from 35 to 70 years old, with the majority of shoppers appearing to be of retirement age.  The majority of the people shopping were dressed nicely. While I was wearing athletic clothes, most of the people appeared “put together.”  Most of the men wore jeans or khakis with button-down shirts.  Most of the women wore jeans or skirts with preppy sweaters or jackets.  Almost all of the women appeared to be wearing makeup.  The types of clothes people wore and the cars they drove led me to believe mainly middle class and upper-middle class people shop at the grocery store.

Though a chain, Harris Teeter in Quarterpath Crossing has a community feel.  People greeted one another and some shoppers clearly knew each other since they struck up conversations and asking about their families.  These observations lead me to believe Harris Teeter serves a certain geographical area, specifically Kingsmill, which is located just across Route 199. I also saw numerous cars with Kingsmill decals on them.

The location of Harris Teeter within Quarterpath Crossing makes the store not only a neighborhood grocery store for people who live in the area, it is also convenient for people driving on Route 199 to and from work.  While I went on a Sunday, a day many people have off from work, I can imagine Harris Teeter is convenient for people who commute to Newport News and Norfolk.  There is a Starbucks located inside the store and a “to go” bar where salads and warm foods can be picked up for lunch.

Despite feeling uncomfortable when I first walked in, I left Harris Teeter knowing I would feel comfortable shopping there again.  While I was the only college student in sight, people did not look at me as if I did not belong.  The shoppers and people working in the school were all friendly.  The assignment allowed me to venture outside of my comfort zone – the geographical comfort zone of being near campus and the emotional comfort zone of going to unknown places where few people like me (college students) are. The assignment has inspired me to travel to new places within the Williamsburg area so I can have a better understanding of and appreciation for the place I have been living.


About

The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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